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Colorado Supreme Court to hear arguments at Westminster High School on May 7

Thursday, May 2, 2019

DENVER – The Colorado Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in two cases on Tuesday, May 7, 2019, at Westminster High School before an audience of students. The public also is invited to attend.

The visit is part of the Colorado Judicial Branch’s Courts in the Community, an outreach program the Colorado Supreme Court and Court of Appeals initiated on Law Day (May 1), 1986. The Courts in the Community program was developed to provide Colorado high school students insight regarding the Colorado judicial system and illustrate how disputes are resolved in a democratic society. These are not mock proceedings. The court will hear arguments in actual cases from which it will issue opinions. The court generally issues opinions within a few months of the arguments.

All seven justices hear cases together. They are Chief Justice Nathan B. Coats and Justices Monica M. Márquez, Brian D. Boatright, William W. Hood III, Richard L. Gabriel, Melissa Hart and Carlos A. Samour Jr.

The two cases are: 

  • 16SC267, Randy Campbell v. The People of the State of Colorado: This case presents the Colorado Supreme Court with a question about the kind of testimony that would require a trial court to qualify a witness as an expert. Randy Campbell was driving late one night and was pulled over by an officer who spotted a defective headlight. According to trial testimony, the officer detected several signs that Mr. Campbell was intoxicated, so the officer decided to ask Campbell to perform roadside sobriety tests, each of which Mr. Campbell failed. During a county court trial, the officer testified as a lay witness about the sobriety tests, and Mr. Campbell was convicted by a jury of driving while ability impaired. On appeal, the district court affirmed the conviction, concluding that an ordinary citizen would be able to reach the same conclusions the officer did regarding Mr. Campbell’s intoxication. Mr. Campbell has argued in his brief to the Supreme Court that the officer’s testimony, particularly regarding one of the roadside sobriety tests, required specialized knowledge and was too technical for an ordinary citizen to have administered. Therefore, Mr. Campbell argued in his brief, the officer should have been qualified as an expert witness before being allowed to testify about that test. In their brief, prosecutors argued ordinary citizens could have reached the same conclusion the officer did regarding Mr. Campbell’s intoxication, making it unnecessary for the officer to have been qualified as an expert witness.

 

  • 17SC116, The People of the State of Colorado In the Interest of R.D.: This case presents the Supreme Court with a question of when the exercise of free speech online transforms into making true threats or fighting words such that the speech is no longer protected. The case arose out of an argument between students from two Denver-area high schools that occurred on Twitter following a fatal shooting at a third high school. As the argument escalated, a student whose initials are R.D. (the Court doesn’t use full names of juveniles) joined the conversation and directed multiple tweets at another student from a different school. Law enforcement officers became aware of the argument, and prosecutors charged R.D. with conduct that, if committed by an adult, would constitute harassment. Following a trial to the court, the juvenile court adjudicated R.D. delinquent, and R.D. appealed, arguing that the harassment statute, as applied to his conduct, violated his First Amendment right to free speech. Prosecutors argued R.D.’s statements were not protected, in part, because they fell under a “true threat” exemption to free speech rights. The Colorado Court of Appeals concluded for several reasons that R.D.’s tweets were not true threats or fighting words and therefore, his tweets were protected speech. Prosecutors appealed, asking the Supreme Court to determine whether the Court of Appeals was wrong in its determination.

 

The proceedings will begin at 9 a.m. Tuesday, May 7, 2019, in the auditorium at Westminster High School, 6933 Raleigh St., Westminster, CO 80030. A question-and-answer session, during which the students may ask questions of the attorneys, will follow the arguments in each case. At the conclusion of the second argument, the students also will have the opportunity to participate in a question-and-answer session with the Supreme Court justices.

There will be a limited number of seats for the public. Audio recordings from the two arguments will be available online within one to two days of the arguments at http://www.courts.state.co.us/Courts/Supreme_Court/Oral_Arguments/Index.cfm.

 

 

Editor’s Note:

The documents related to these two cases are located at: https://www.courts.state.co.us/Courts/Education/Materials.cfm?s=Spring&y=2019

Additional information on the Courts in the Community program is available at: http://www.courts.state.co.us/Courts/Education/Community.cfm

News media organizations interested in recording the arguments may contact Jon Sarché at the State Court Administrator’s Office (contact information below). The following pages contain information about expanded media coverage.

We will be reserving seats for journalists. Please contact Jon Sarché at jon.sarche@judicial.state.co.us or at 720-625-5811 if you plan to attend.

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